Solo practice: Dr. Kolba, owner of Pacific Arthritis Center Medical Group in Santa Maria, Calif., and Dr. Blau, owner of Arthritis Institute of Long Island, each purchased the same EMR system for their solo practices in 2003.
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Explore This IssueApril 2007
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Dr. Kolba estimates she spent $15,000 on software, including a package that integrates data from her practice management software, and about $35,000 on hardware, including monitors and printers in each exam room, her office, nurse workstations, and the on-site laboratory.
Dr. Blau reports the software cost between $6,000 and $7,000, while hardware expenses rang in at about $800 per workstation for a total outlay of roughly $12,000. His facility was already wired to accommodate the networked computers.
Faced with hundreds of EMR systems on the market, rheumatologists might do best by buying a system like the one being used by the physician next door.
“Seriously consider getting something that one of your friends already has—even if they’re in a different specialty,” Dr. Kolba says.
She chose a system on the advice of a consultant and has found implementation to be slow and sometimes frustrating. By contrast, a podiatrist who practices on her street is benefiting from Dr. Kolba’s experience with the system.
“He gets a lot of free advice from us, which is fine. I’m happy to share,” she says. “That’s definitely made his experience better.”
Dr. Kolba and other EMR-equipped rheumatologists urge their colleagues to buy a system only after they understand—or develop—the types of support needed to implement it successfully.
Two essentials to making the EMR work: general computer savvy and rheumatology-specific templates that correspond to an individual practice. If a physician’s office has no in-house information technology expertise, that will need to be purchased. Likewise, unless a physician has the skills to customize templates, choosing an EMR system with rheumatology-specific templates—or hiring someone to create them—will be required.
Other tips from rheumatology’s EMR leaders: Screen the company first, and then the product it offers: “There is tremendous turnover in the industry,” says Dr. Robbins, co-author of “Electronic Medical Records for the Physician’s Office,” an issue of the ACR’s Practice View (available online at www.rheumatology.org/products/coding/03emr_ack.asp). “The last thing you want to do is to load all of your patient information onto a system from a company that doesn’t have enough money to support the product, and the company goes under.”
Check the manufacturer’s references and be sure to ask physicians who are using the system whether they receive adequate support from the company.